7.5.11 Smoking Hot

Flag 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
July 4th may be my favorite holiday. It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with freedom. It's a chance to celebrate the founding of this country which, though seriously flawed and in grand decline, is still the place I choose to call home above all others. This year, we also raised a glass to gay marriage in New York! What a day. It dawned clear and warm after days of torrential rains and lightning storms. G had to stand outside in the downpour for hours the day before to smoke the first half of the 60 pounds of pork we served to the hoard of hungry revelers. It was nothing short of heroic. Gin cocktails were sucked down, pickles were scarfed, ice cream sandwiches demolished. Groups congregated in the screened-in porch, on the lawn and front patio, and even in the house. Dogs frolicked and begged. Screams of laughter rang out, joints were passed and kids got purple popsicle juice everywhere. In short, a great party. 
G smoking 790 xxx
g in a haze of blue smoke
With his broken leg propped up on a bucket, my husband spent the better part of two days smoking four 15-pound hunks of pork from Dickson's, New York City's finest butcher, as well as four kosher chickens (we have one guest who is kosher but everyone loves those smoked birds). He used a regular old Weber grill and a larger smoker that comes out once a year, hardwood charcoal and hickory chips. The latter produce the legendary blue smoke.
Weber 790 xxx
you really don't need anything fancier than your weber for smoking
Cook's Illustrated has a great book to get you started smoking and cooking extraordinary things on your grill. Make this the summer you finally conquer your fear of fire. Get your ash in gear! Tip: an instant read thermometer is your friend.
Fat cap 790 xxx
picture-perfect smoked pork
The pork is rubbed down with a mix of spices, sugar and salt and left to cure for a few days before being slow-smoked for three hours. It spends two more in a 325º oven, one more resting in a paper bag, and then...
Chopping pork 790 xxx
this year we got a huge cutting board with a well that covered our entire stovetop
...the pork is actually chopped with a couple of big cleavers rather than literally being "pulled."
Pulled pork sandwich 790 xxx
pickles, slaw and a cheapie potato bun are classic accompaniments
Our pals from Charlotte, Stephanie and Philip, have schooled us in the ways of Eastern North Carolina barbecue. Dill pickles are traditional, as is green cabbage tossed with a mayonnaise-based dressing, but bread-&-butter pickles and a spicy purple slaw have been embraced as well.
Vegetable platter 790 xxx
this helps offset all that meat
In the past I've served blue cheese dip with celery sticks as an hors d'oeuvre, but this year I wanted to offer something a bit lighter as a counterpoint to the richness of the meat. (That doesn't mean I didn't also have two big Kunik cheeses—a beautiful combination of goat's milk and cow's cream from a small farm in the Southern Adirondacks.) I blanched cauliflower florets, mini asparagus, new Yukon gold potatoes and haricot verts, and served small carrots, tiny red turnips and spicy red radishes raw. Later this week I'll post the recipe for the marvelously fresh and savory salsa verde that was the accompanying dip.
Flowers 790 xxx
the divine is in the details
G and I were lucky to have a couple of houseguests who pitched in with party prep. In addition to taking these great photos, Peter Buchanan-Smith chopped everything for our spicy purple cabbage-&-jícama slaw and generally made himself indispensable. Scott Newkirk made the house beautiful, hanging his vintage 48-state flag, arranging flowers and creating artful seating arrangements as only he can. I'm indebted to my charming and talented friends.
Cocktail 790 xxx
the "lovage you long time" was so popular last year that it came back
The bar was stocked with two gallons of our favorite gin cocktail; unsweetened iced tea next to a pitcher of lemon-balm-&-mint-infused simple syrup; Vermont sweetwater; rum and tonic; local riesling; and lots of beer.
Scratch 790 xxx
scratch really came into his own this year
Other dog visitors included, Zara, Freddy, Edie, Annie, Grace and Bea. Titi spent the bulk of the day under our bed. Later she was rewarded for her stoicism with choice bits of smoked chicken.
Titi 790 xxx
in this light you can't see her gorgeous jade-green eyes
Hammock 790 xxx
a sweet spot for recovering from all the revelry
Other highlights included two kinds of ice cream sandwiches (homegrown mint and vanilla with a layer of cajeta) and two kinds of popsicles (plum-ginger and blueberry-raspberry-mint). Stay tuned for the recipes so you can make your own. And how was your 4th?


My Land! That sounds like an incredible party! And a heroic effort that went into it. Whew! My 4th was more low-key though I did enjoy some cheese and beans pupusas with excellent cole slaw and some tasty beef sopes, not made by me. (I would marry bread-and-butter pickles if I could. I love them so...)
Eliza on July 5, 2011 at 10:32 am —
Wow, Eliza, sounds like a down-home Salvadoran celebration! Are those eats from your hood?
laura on July 5, 2011 at 10:42 am —
Yup, those are eats from my East Boston hood. I get into other sorts of food mischief in my Brooklyn hood - such as my favorite Haitian vegetable stew, which features huge chunks of beef. I hope Titi has recovered from the festivities. I'm sure the bits of smoked chicken helped...
Eliza on July 5, 2011 at 11:51 am —
Eliza, beef is not a vegetable.
laura on July 5, 2011 at 12:02 pm —
Hmmm. Are you sure? The restaurant named it Vegetable Stew, not me, and they seem to know what they're doing...
Eliza on July 5, 2011 at 12:10 pm —
LOL What else is in it?
laura on July 5, 2011 at 12:37 pm —
I'm just waiting for the day TJs starts to sell gluten-free ice-cream sandwiches. Maybe you can concoct one for the mass market place. Gluten-free fried calamari, too.
jennie on July 5, 2011 at 6:04 pm —
You can make perfect ice cream sandwiches with Tate's incredibly delicious gluten-free chocolate chip cookies--they rock! And I've already posted the gf fried calamari here. It's all about rice flour...
laura on July 5, 2011 at 7:06 pm —
How how how do I get an invitation to next year's bash??? Mercy, that looks good.
Cathy on July 6, 2011 at 3:30 am —
Put it in your calendar, Charcutepal!
laura on July 6, 2011 at 3:51 am —
A comment about cajeta. A dietitian working in Monterrey at the school I at tended said the closest we could come to cajeta was to heat in a pan of water a can of sweetened condensed milk. The sugar content is so high that you can only eat a small amount at a time--like the tip of a teaspoon. Not the real stuff, but close enough.
Vivian on July 6, 2011 at 6:12 am —
Actually, cajeta is traditionally made from goat's milk which you cook low and slow with sugar and maybe a vanilla bean. See recipe, here. The condensed milk in a can version is a far cry from the real thing, but still pretty darn good. And by the way, I know a certain person's son who can eat a whole lot more than just one tip of a teaspoon...
laura on July 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm —
I am a bit slow to comment here....but....WOW! I am beyond impressed and must admit that I'm a bit crushed that I not only missed the 4th in general but missed this amazing party. You and G rock!
tanya on July 12, 2011 at 2:00 am —
Tanya, that's what happens when you move to Europe. But there's always Oktoberfest...
laura on July 12, 2011 at 3:02 am —